Twelve Tips to Block Identity Theft

It’s everyone’s nightmare-one day the phone rings and someone gets the call from their bank’s fraud division that someone had unauthorized access to a bank account. You want to make sure nothing like that happens (if it has not affected you already). It can very difficult, almost impossible to get things back to the way they were financially if a criminal steals your identity. Don’t let it happen to you.

What should you do so you can block identity theft?

1. Well, first of all get a copy of your credit report and go over all the information on your credit report. Many credit reports have some wrong information that needs to be corrected. If there are any unusual discrepancies or false information, you must contact the credit reporting agency. They will have a special procedure for you to contact them.

Some states such as California, New Jersey, Louisiana, Texas, Vermont, Washington, Nevada, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, North Carolina and Colorado can freeze your credit report or place it under lockdown. This means that no one, even someone who stole your financial information or identity can have access to your credit report. It also means that no one can open credit cards or get loans in your name. When under lockdown, your credit file is not available to potential lenders, insurers and even potential employers. You can however, get it temporarily unlocked to have a future employer or insurer look at your credit report. Find out more information by contacting the three credit unions, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion and they will inform you of your state’s laws regarding freezing your credit report.

2. This is easy: call the local Police and explain what happened. You do not want to be liable for some crime by someone who has your Driver’s license. Even if nothing happens, they will have a record of your stolen property or identity theft.

3. Report the problem with the FTC by filling out its online complaint form, or you can use the commission’s theft hot line toll-free at (877) ID-THEFT, or write to Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20580.

4. Don’t carry your Social Security Card with you. Leave it home. And better yet, if you need to use it for some reason, learn to memorize it.

5. Invest in a shredder because it’s worth it to have the peace of mind. Shred all your credit card receipts, as well as monthly bills. The less someone knows about you and your finances, the better. If you don’t have a shredder, don’t make any excuses not to have one. They are worth it in the long run.

6. If you bank online or pay credit cards online, change your passwords monthly and use a combination of small and capital letters, numbers, and unique characters with your password. Also, if you are banking online don’t let your computer sit for a long time on your bank account. Get your banking business done, log out, and exit the website. Better yet, close the page after you complete the task.

7. Get a good security system for your computer that protects your email and accounts, such as McAfee or Norton. Don’t allow your computer to be without protection.

8. Do not, I repeat, do not give out any financial information if your bank claims to be calling you and asking for personal information. Instead, ask for their phone number so you can call them back. If you are really in doubt, hang up—then call your bank and ask them if they called for information. Never give out information such as social security numbers or private financial information to anyone on the phone or online.

9. If you get an email from what seems like your bank asking for you to update your account information, ignore it. You can call your bank and ask them about this email. Most likely, it was fraudulent as many online crooks try to “phish” for personal and financial information through emails. Don’t get tempted and do it. It’s not worth it–keep in mind most the fraudulent emails can look exactly like your bank’s official email, using a fake email address with your bank’s name in the address.

10. If your identity has been stolen, file a “Fraud Alert” to Place a “Fraud Alert” on your credit reports, and review those reports carefully. Notifying one of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies is enough to notify them of your identity or credit card theft.

11. If you suspect your bank account was violated by a thief, then go to your bank and immediately close it. Start a new bank account so you can transfer your funds from your old bank account. If you bank online, change your bank account user name and password after you open your new account.

12. If your identity was stolen, keep copies of all documents regarding the matter and make a record of all conversations regarding the identity theft. You may need to have the information in the weeks ahead.

Remain protective and proactive so that your banking information, personal information, and your identity will be safe. Remember that many criminals are always thinking of new ways to steal money from people, so stay on guard!